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Keith stays true to mission

Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pa., September 27, 2019

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Toby Keith's tour, "That's Country Bro," begins with the new single accompanied by a video that is a roll call of old-school country acts, from George Strait and Patsy Cline to Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. Keith shouts some fiery expletives to the backdrop of pickups, AM radio, rhinestones and boots. His energy and passion for tradition is as strong as his love of patriotism as the video borders on anger and a not so subtle denouncement of bro country.

Few artists deliver on lofty live show promises like Keith. After the one-two punch of "Made In America" and "American Ride," he announced, "I've got a lot of number one hits, and tonight we're gonna play most all of them." Over half of the set was laden with chart toppers heavily featuring pedal steel. Rich Eckhardt is in his 21st year as lead guitarist and managed to coax the twang out of many guitars that are not Fender Telecasters and gives songs like "How Do You Like Me Now" and "Who's Your Daddy" an extra kick in the pants.

Keith prefaced "Don't Let The Old Man In" with his tale about a sit down with Clint Eastwood who coined the phrase in response to Keith asking on the set of "The Mule" how he still is motivated to continue working as hard as he does at 89 years old.

Of course, he capped off the evening with the patriotic tributes "American Soldier" and" Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." It seemed fitting that it was fireworks night for the Pittsburgh Pirates right across the river as the concert closed amidst a dazzling display.

In his documentary of country music, Ken Burns described the Nineties neo-traditionalists as artists who felt the need to revitalize country music and move it away from its seemingly inevitable fusion with pop. Keith is clearly still on that mission two decades later and in no subtle terms.

Local favorite and American Idol runner up Gabby Barrett filled the opener slot with the standard Shania Twain cover "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" and did an outstanding job with Underwood's "Cry Pretty."

Clay Walker played a set filled with his signature beachy vibe and featured '90s hit "Dreaming With My Eyes Open." An initially tepid crowd response seemed to prompt him into hype man mode. He broke out the beach balls and streamer cannons in short order.